A Local’s Favorite Daycation – Emerald Bay

EagleFalls1As a Lake Tahoe local, whether by car or boat, the trip to Emerald Bay is my favorite sightseeing day trip to make.  Named one of the most photographed panoramas in America, I am not the only one!  But what you may not know is that springtime can be the best time to visit Emerald Bay.

People mistakenly think that there isn’t much to do in Lake Tahoe during the spring “off season” after ski resorts close and before golf courses and lake activities begin, but the off season is actually a favorite time of locals to enjoy Lake Tahoe.  Emerald Bay is a perfect example of this.  Two reasons my favorite time to visit Emerald Bay is in the spring are simple:  bigger waterfalls and smaller crowds!  Sound good to you?  Here I will share with you some of the best things to do and tips for visiting Emerald Bay.

3717160754_d3f6c55207_bBut first some history. Emerald Bay is a state park and national natural landmark located along the south west corner of Lake Tahoe famous for its expansive panorama of Lake Tahoe, granite glacier carved surrounding peaks and rich emerald shimmering waters.  Emerald Bay is accessible via Highway 89 and located 22 miles south of Tahoe City or 12 miles north west of South Lake Tahoe.  It is famous for a few unique features including being home to the Lake’s only island as well as the only flowing waterfall into the Lake.  Emerald Bay is also home of  Vikingsholm and its adjoining “Tea House” on Fannette Island. To learn more about these famous landmarks, visit my earlier post Lake Tahoe’s Original Mansion Masterpieces.

When visiting Emerald Bay, plan on spending the entire day as there is so much to do!
Here is a list of my favorite must see and do when visiting:
IMG_0879– Hike to Upper Eagle Waterfalls
– Hike to Emerald Beach & Lower Eagle Waterfalls
– Hike to Eagle Lake and have a picnic. My favorite!  (photo left)
– Sunbathe on the beach & swim in the emerald waters
– Snap a photo of the famous view from the Visitors Center
– Take a tour of the Vikingsholm Mansion
– Hike along the Rubicon Trail towards D.L. Bliss State Park
– Visit the bay by boat! Enjoy a different perspective of the waterfalls and mountains
– Take a day hike trip to nearby Cascade Lake or Granite Lake. Learn more at Stephen Berei’s Lake Tahoe All Access Blog

mapLocal Tips for your Trip!  Emerald Bay becomes EXTREMELY crowded in the summer months of July and August.  My friends and I have a rule that if we won’t get there by 10:00 am on summer weekend, its better not to go.  Parking is very limited with only three small lots available and it can take an hour of circling to find a spot during peak summer time.  Bring cash!  Parking rates at the visitor local center apply and can vary each year.  Hiking trails can also be very crowded, but are easy and short making them accessible for family members of all ages and ability. Dogs are not allowed along the hiking trails or beach.  Last, layer clothing.  The beach is surrounded by spectacular granite cliffs, gets shady early in the afternoon and the waters are very chilly due to the snowmelt especially during spring months.  Campsites, park facilities and museum tours do not open until Memorial weekend and remain open though Labor Day weekend.  To learn more about park information and hours visit the Emerald Bay State Park website.

Have you ever visited Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe?  If so, share your favorite thing to do there in the comments below!

Enjoy learning about Lake Tahoe?  Follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

Photo Credit 1Photo Credit 2, Photo Credit 4


Lake Tahoe’s Original Mansion Masterpieces

Sorry Larry Ellison but when it comes to building mansions at Lake Tahoe, you were not the first.  Since the turn of the century, elite have flocked to Lake Tahoe building luxury summer homes along its shores.  I am often asked about the history and facts about the mansions that adorn the shores of Lake Tahoe.  Here I share what I consider to be the crème de la crème!

The historic Thunderbird Lodge and its world famous Thunderbird Yacht sit stately along Lake Tahoe’s tranquil East Shore.  George Whittell, Jr. born in San Francisco in 1881 into great wealth, lived a fast life as a playboy of California and Nevada and later became a recluse.  His immigrant grandfathers exploited the gold rush, founding his family’s financial empire in the San Francisco Water Company, today Pacific Gas and Electric.  In early 1929, Whittle sold $50 million in stock holdings later insulating him from the stock market crash and became one of the wealthiest men in California.  Eventually Whittell acquired over 40,000 acres on the East Shore, including 20 miles of shoreline.  Thunderbird Lodge was completed in 1939, and consists of a main lodge surrounded by three cottages, a card house, a boathouse, an elephant house, a lighthouse, three garages, and a gatehouse!  Many stories surround Whittell’s activities including colorful parties and high-stakes gambling in the card house. Whittell loved exotic animals which he collected, including elephants and lions, who made guest appearances each summer!

images3Vikingsholm & Fannette Island House
Vikingsholm is known as one of the first summer homes as well as for its unique location incorporating the only Island and nearby the only waterfall on the Lake.  Mrs. Knight purchased the land from previous landowners in 1928 and decided she wanted to build a summer home that would compliment the natural surroundings.  She commissioned her nephew, Lennart Palme, a Swedish architect, to construct a Scandinavia masterpiece. It was completed in 1929 and occupied by Mrs. Knight, her staff of 15 and many guests and enjoyed for 15 summers thereafter.

images4The Pine Lodge
The Ehrman Mansion is located at Sugar Pine Point State Park and was originally built by Isaias Hellman in 1902.  Hellman was a German immigrant in 1842 and as a young 16 yr old boy began working in his cousin’s dry goods store.  He had a natural talent for business and shortly was running his own stories and decided eventually to open a bank. Banking became his true passion in life, later moved to San Francisco and became the President of Nevada National Bank which eventually became the Wells Fargo Bank that we know today.  Hellman hired Walter Danforth Bliss to design a summer home in Lake Tahoe and bought 2000 acres of the surrounding land.  The home was completed in 1903 and the family began summering at the estate that July.  The Mansion is complete with the main house, barn and coach house, water tower, various worker cabins and a pier.

Unknown4The “Godfather” Estate
Also formally knows as the Kaiser Estate was originally built by Henry J. Kaiser from San Francisco in 1935 as an exclusive hideaway for him and five other owners who joined forces to build the Hoover Dam.  The walled compound was originally a 16-acre mansion which included 17 large homes, small cottages, servant quarters, a yacht club and boat house and is found on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.  The mansion’s was nicknamed  “Fleur du Lac” or “Flower of the Lake” after Kaiser’s favorite hydroplane.  The mansion became most famous when it was featured in “The Godfather II” movie and site of Freddo’s death on the Lake.  Today the property has been redesigned into private residences and only the original boat house, harbor and lighthouse remain.

Most of these mansion offers daily tours starting in late spring through early fall which is a great activity to enjoy during the shoulder seasons in Lake Tahoe.  Share if you are interested in visiting any of these historic mansions at Lake Tahoe in the comments below.

Enjoy learning about Lake Tahoe?  Follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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Lake Tahoe – Tales & Trivia

images_favo I have been visiting Lake Tahoe since I was born and I grew up experiencing what makes Lake Tahoe famous.  From learning to ski, swimming in the Lake and going backpacking in the mountains, I learned firsthand about this amazing destination.  However, like many I only had a surface level understanding of its history.  In this post, I will share with you some background on how Lake Tahoe was formed, settled and some fascinating facts about it!

Lake Tahoe was formed by a series of faultings that formed the mountainous basin and peaks surrounding the Lake.  Eruptions from the extinct volcano Mount Pluto formed a dam on the north side of the lake in which melting snow later filled the southern and lowest part of the basin followed by rain and runoff water.  Lake Tahoe was finally shaped by glaciers during the Ice Ages, which began a million or more years ago.

3a27764rFor centuries, the Lake Tahoe basin was the summer gathering place for the native Washoe Tribes who hunted and fished along the shores also famous of basket weaving. The Washoe named the area “Da-ow-a-ga,” or “edge of the Lake.”  Early explorers unfamiliar to their language interpreted the phrase as “Tahoe” and in 1945 the Lake Tahoe Basin was officially designated.

First pioneers explored the area in the 1860s when silver was discovered in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They came to the area during California’s Gold Rush, planning to strike it rich as the largest silver lode was discovered nearby in 1859 in Virginia City.  Also, Tahoe’s timber forests became an important resource as fuel and also to support the labyrinth of mines being constructed nearby. The availability of timber led to the near clear cutting of Tahoe’s forests, which were heavily logged between 1860 and 1890.

lt-history01By the turn of the twentieth century, news of Lake Tahoe’s natural beauty had reached the wealthy families of San Francisco who sought a new vacation destination.  Many mansions of historical significance line Lake Tahoe’s shores today as a result of this era including the Thunderbird Lodge on the East Shore, Vikingsholm the original settlement on Emerald Bay and The Ehrman Mansion in Sugar Pine Point.  In the mid 1940’s, gaming establishments, permanent accommodations, hotels and roads were constructed.  Following the 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe was solidified as the premier skiing destination of the western U.S.

Lake Tahoe lies along the borders of California and Nevada and is not governed by any single entity but rather by a handful of different bordering counties.  The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) formed in 1968 is a bi-state agency between California and Nevada that is responsible with environmental protection through land-use regulation and planning.


Lake Tahoe Trivia – Did you know?
• Lake Tahoe is the 2nd deepest lake in the USA & 8th deepest in the world
• The Lake is 1,645 feet deep at the deepest point, which means one could immerse the Empire State Building into the lake, stack the Washington Monument on top and still have 20 feet to spare
• The average depth of the Lake is almost 1,000 feet
• If Lake Tahoe were drained into California, it would cover the entire state in 14 inches of water. Texas would be covered in 9 inches of water
• The Lake never freezes because of its enormous size and the temperature below 600 feet remains constant at 39 degrees
• An average of 1,400,000 gallons of water evaporates off the Lake every 24 hours (which is only 1/10 of an inch)
• By law, the Lake cannot exceed 6,229 feet in elevation, Truckee River outlet is used to drain the Lake when this occurs and is the ONLY outlet to the Lake
• The Lake is so clear that you can see a white dinner plate 75 feet down
• There are more ski lifts in the Lake Tahoe Basin than in the entire state of Colorado.  Visit Pick Your Peak to learn more about the Ski Resorts in Lake Tahoe!

I invite you to share your own historical tale or trivia of Lake Tahoe in the comments below!

Enjoy learning about Lake Tahoe?  Follow my blog and me at @robinpenning on Twitter to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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